Culture Magazine

Taking Scientology Seriously?

By Cris

Over at The Chronicle, Seth Perry reviews two recent books on Scientology, Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion (2011) and Hugh Urban’s The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion (2011). This assertion grabbed my attention: “Hubbard’s teachings contain fascinating religious content that demands serious study—by those interested in religion writ large, and by those, like me, who study its American iterations.”

Although I have done a fair amount of reading on Scientology, a mysteriously lacking effect is that I’ve never taken the “religious content” seriously, or even seriously considered it. I’ve always had the idea that Scientology rather belatedly styled itself a “religion” when the organization realized the tax and other benefits that flow from the government’s decision that a particular set of beliefs do in fact amount to a “religion.”

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard may or may not have had such benefits in mind when (in 1953) he was reconstituting Scientology based on what he specifically identified as “the religion angle.” We may never know whether Hubbard was being sincere, cynical, or pragmatic, though it wouldn’t surprise me if Hubbard was being all three at once. He was complex that way and clearly understood that religion can captivate (or capture) people in ways that self-help therapies cannot. He also recognized that founding a “religion” was a great way to make lots of money.

Taking Scientology Seriously?

I will confess to being ambivalent about taking Scientology’s “religious content” seriously. I’m not sure what that content is. If it is Xenu, Thetans, and Clear, I’m not buying it. However fuzzy, there is in my mind some kind of dividing line between the kinds of supernaturalisms associated with historic “religions” and straight up science fiction. I am inclined to agree with governments around the world that see official Scientology as a scam and pseudo-religion.

If there is in fact Scientology content that deserves serious study as “religious,” I haven’t seen it. As Perry’s review indicates, this may be because Scientology keeps it secret. Then again, it may be kept secret because the content doesn’t look, smell, or feel much like “religion.”

There is a big difference between acknowledging something as a “religion” juridically or legally and calling something a “religion” academically. I have yet to be convinced that Scientology deserves serious study as a “religion” rather than something else altogether more bizarre and difficult to categorize.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Concert Review: Extreme Orchestral Sports

    Concert Review: Extreme Orchestral Sports

    The New York Philharmonic plays Berio and Strauss. by Paul J. Pelkonen Oh what a mountain! The New York Philharmonic played Ein Alpensinfonie this week. Read more

    The 27 May 2018 by   Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Peonies by Mary Oliver

    Peonies Mary Oliver

    This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart as the sun rises, as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers and... Read more

    The 27 May 2018 by   Vickilane
    CREATIVITY, PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Memorial Day: Remember Them

    Memorial Day: Remember Them

    "The endless rows of white stones and mausoleums command the heights of former battlefields and sprawl across the rolling course of green, under the cobalt spac... Read more

    The 27 May 2018 by   Ingrafted
    POLITICS, SOCIETY
  • Cinnamon Cake

    Cinnamon Cake

    Mmmm . . . is there any smell on earth better than the smell of cinnamon anything baking in the oven??? I think not!!! It has to be the most comforting, homey,... Read more

    The 27 May 2018 by   Mariealicerayner
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • "The Law is What Powerful Men Say It Shall Be...."

    "The What Powerful Shall Be...."

    The War of the Roses was a British civil war that lasted approximately from 1455 A.D. to 1485 A.D. between the houses of Lancaster and York ending with the deat... Read more

    The 27 May 2018 by   Jamesswezey
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • Full-Time Firefighter/Paramedic – City of Riverside (OH)

    Full-Time Firefighter/Paramedic City Riverside (OH)

    City of Riverside (OH) Full-Time Firefighter/Paramedic Salary: $49,561.20 – $64,977.12 annually ****To reserve your spot, please sign up!**** City of Riverside... Read more

    The 26 May 2018 by   Firecareers
    SOCIETY
  • Thoughts of the Week

    1. Meghan Markle's wedding make-up has been released. I don't buy it. They claim to have used foundation, an eyeshadow palette, contour palette, eyeliner,... Read more

    The 26 May 2018 by   Glossqueen
    HAIR & BEAUTY, SELF EXPRESSION

Magazines